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The next evening, in the middle of a driving snowstorm, St. John pays Jane a surprise call. She sees at once that he's got something serious on his mind. After a long silence, St. John begins to tell Jane a story about a poor orphan girl who lived with a family named Reed, was sent away to Lowood School, and eventually fell in love with a man named Rochester...
Jane's first reaction is that St. John has brought her some bad news about Mr. Rochester. Nothing of the kind!- he hasn't heard anything about Rochester. He's had a letter from Mr. Briggs, John Eyre's solicitor, who's been looking for Jane all over England. Mr. Eyre has died and left her a fortune of 20,000 pounds-enough to make her a rich woman for life. St. John goes on to explain that it was only when he noticed Jane's signature on the cover of her portrait that he realized that Jane Elliott-as she had called herself-was the same person as the missing heiress Jane Eyre.
Naturally, Jane is overjoyed by her unexpected inheritance. Only after the news has taken a few minutes to sink in does she begin to wonder how St. John managed to get a letter from Mr. Briggs, confirming the amount of the legacy, in such a short time. Reluctantly, he confesses that Briggs had written to St. John even before he guessed Jane's identity. John Eyre is the same "Uncle John" whose death we heard about in Chapter 30! And St. John, Mary, and Diana are Jane's cousins-the children of her father's only sister. Jane immediately decides that she will split her fortune four ways, giving equal shares to St. John and his sisters.
In a story filled with improbable coincidences, this is surely the most improbable of all. Not only does Jane's uncle know Richard Mason and learn about Jane's wedding in time to stop it... not only does he leave his money to a niece he has never seen... we're now supposed to believe that he's also related to the Rivers family, people Jane met purely by chance!
If you're the kind of reader who wants stories to be true to life, this string of coincidences might spoil the story for you, On the other hand, if you believe in omens, as Jane does, you may believe that something more than chance sent Jane to the door of the Rivers cottage.